It wasn’t too long ago I posted about why I wasn’t going to move to China, even though I wanted to. Now I’m in the process of hauling myself and my family to Shenzhen, China, just across the border from Hong Kong where I’ve lived and worked for the past three years. I had originally intended for MWI’s next office to be in Singapore, and was gearing up to move there, but changed my mind. Why?
To explain, here’s the email I sent to my team at MWI after the decision was made:
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Hi everyone, I’m excited to announce the location of MWI’s next office, and the next place I’ll be calling home. Surprise, surprise, it’s not going to be Singapore. There has been a change in plans and instead of Singapore, as has been previously discussed as the likely candidate, I’ll be moving with my family to Shenzhen, China.
Here are a few reasons why we chose Shenzhen:
1. Shenzhen is closer to Hong Kong than Singapore. That’s a bit of an understatement, actually. Here’s a map of Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
The center of Shenzhen is about a little over 30km or about 20 miles from downtown Hong Kong. The other night I and the MWI HK team attended a presentation a friend of mine who lives in Shenzhen did in Hong Kong. He messaged me when he got to his home in Shenzhen and it turns out it took him less time to get home than it took for me to get to mine.
On the other hand, Singapore is 4-5 hours each way by plane, not including travel to and from the airport, check in, hotel, etc.
2. We have other options in Singapore. I don’t need to be in Singapore for us to open an office there. We have at least one great prospect for someone who can open the office for us, and even if he weren’t the right fit, we can find others. Singapore has a rich talent pool and we have existing networks there. Within China there is less of all that so I can add more value there.
3. Shenzhen has great options for entrepreneurs. Shenzhen has a special economic zone called Qianhai where they are actively recruiting companies with incentives like a discount on taxes and entertaining a more open internet (see http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1657261/startup-incubator-opens-shenzhens-qianhai-business-hub). It’s often referred to as “the Silicon Valley of China.”
4. It’s cheaper. The cost of living in Shenzhen is less than in Singapore.
5. It’s a larger market with less competition. Billions vs. millions and just like in HK there are only a few companies there that do what we do.
There are challenges as well, like more of a language barrier and internet issues, but I have many friends doing business there and these things are workable.
Q: How soon would you move?
A: Two to three months.
Q: What about MWI HK?
A: I have no concerns about MWI HK managing things on their own. They’re already doing it, and if there’s any reason I need to be in HK I’m right next door.
Q: How much will this cost?
A: There will be some minor expenses related to incorporation and paperwork and such, a few thousand dollars U.S. Beyond that, not much.
Q: What will success look like?
A: Doing what we’ve done in Hong Kong, only faster. The first priority is to find someone to do bizdev/sales and ideally a “local CEO” who can run the office.
This is an exciting opportunity for MWI! Geographically and logistically it’s a small step, but it’s a huge one in terms of expanding the opportunities for MWI.
BTW, I posted this video on slack previously but if you didn’t watch it already you may be more interested now. It’s a recent documentary by Wired about Shenzhen.
If you have any questions drop me a line.